As a producer on her first film, Dichen Lachman had her hands full. Not with location scouting or production schedules – that would come later, but instead with the groceries she had picked up to fix a lavish meal for strangers she had met online, hailing from parts as far and wide as London and Vancouver.
“It’s probably one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in terms of a dinner party,” recalls Lachman of the evening she organized as a reward for some of the film’s Kickstarter donors. “I made Thai food and then some of us who were still here went to the Fairfax market the next day. It was so much fun.”
That same spirit of fun can be felt throughout “Lust for Love,” the lighthearted love story Lachman made with fellow Aussie Anton King, though to hear it from the actress/producer, the shoot was anything but. Made guerrilla style on the streets of Los Angeles, the film’s shoestring budget was cobbled together from the largesse of the considerable following she and co-star Fran Kranz gained from starring in Joss Whedon’s beloved TV series “Dollhouse,” many of whom would go on to help with odd jobs around the set. Yet while the production may have been limited in its resources, “Lust for Love” embraces simplicity in recounting the misadventures of Astor (Kranz), a hapless romantic who turns to a friend (Lachman) for advice after successfully wooing but ultimately losing the woman (Beau Garrett) who had been his longtime crush.
Although Astor’s overwhelming affections may be misplaced, “Lust for Love” knows its target well, exuding a great deal of heart for the charming misfits at its center as well as the city they live in. Weaving its way in and out of the idyllic California coastline to the humble homes and neighborhoods just a few miles inland, the film from first-time director King explores Los Angeles as thoroughly as Astor’s romantic entanglements, mining the small delights in both. Shortly before the film makes its way to audiences around the world via video-on-demand, Lachman spoke about embracing the challenge of getting it made, her adoration of the community that helped make it happen and why being overworked may have resulted in one of her most natural performances.
When I talked to Anton a while back, he seemed to suggest you were responsible for setting this film in motion because you got him involved in the “Remains” video, based on Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon’s song for “Dollhouse.” True?
Actually, it was Maurissa, who called me one day and she’s one of the kindest souls that I’ve ever come across. Anton and I used to be in a relationship. We didn’t break up because of the movie. [laughs] But we had been working on little projects all the time and she said, “Would Anton like to maybe write the story for a music video for this song of Jed [Whedon]’s and mine?” And I said, of course he would. Are you kidding me? Of course, Jed’s music is outstanding and it’s featured in the film several times, which he kindly gave us for free, which made a huge difference. Obviously, we’ll pay him back when we have more money, but I loved that little video. We shot it, just me and Anton. I did the makeup, he did the lighting and operating the camera and we turned our apartment into a set. It was so simple and just a beautiful story in a matter of minutes. That’s how Anton got into that world and then he had this wonderful idea, this great character of Astor and after we amicably parted, he said, “Do you want to do this together?” Fran [Kranz] just seemed like the perfect person for the role, so it all went from there really.
Were you able to shape your character, if you were really on the ground level of this production?
I was very scared. There were times when I wished I had not been in this movie because there was so much to do behind the scenes. It was such an enormous amount of work and we had so many volunteers. A lot of them had never done a feature before or ever worked on a set. They just wanted to come and help because they believed in the project or they were fans of “Dollhouse.” So half the crew had kind of been on sets before, but not necessarily features and the other half of the crew had never been on a set in a meaningful way and we had a great team of people who would coordinate these incredibly kind volunteers.
Usually when I work, I’m sitting on a chair working on my material or rehearsing with an actor and I’m just taking it easy because everyone has their job and there’s a lot more money. People don’t even like it when you help them on proper sets usually. I often go to move my chair because we’re turning around and they’ll be like “no, no, no, don’t touch it.” This set, it was unconscionable for me to be sitting down, relaxing when all these volunteers had come out, moving equipment and cleaning and picking up trash and unclogging the one toilet we had for 30 people, which someone clogged up because our food was probably really bad.
It was so challenging I feel like for me my work suffered a little, but at the same time, I think maybe it helped it because I wasn’t overworking it. I only had time to be genuine and authentic because I was so busy worrying about whether we were going to make the day or whether someone was upset because they didn’t have what they needed at the time, just putting out fires everywhere. But I hope that people like my character and doing all that other stuff on the side didn’t take too much away from what we were actually trying to do, which was make a lovely film that people would enjoy.
That’s what I found it to be. Did you enjoy the rhythm of this? There’s a quickened pace that seemed like it must be fun if it wasn’t too tough to tackle.
Yeah, Anton had many conversations with me where he’s like, “Don’t worry about wrapping up. Just go home and get on that dialogue because I really want it to be really fast.” My natural pace is generally slower, so you’re absolutely right. That was a challenge. Cali, she’s fast, she moves. She’s one of those people who doesn’t stay in one place, one relationship for very long. She’s a bit broken and she moves around a lot [to avoid the pain] but because Astor’s so innocent in a way — not always, but he’s an open, quirky guy who goes watches birds, and I think he really opens her up in a whole new way, for her to experience the world through his eyes. I could just watch Fran go on being Astor for a very long time, he’s so good.
Did you know when you were cast on “Dollhouse” what you were getting into, in terms of this Whedonverse community where it doesn’t only seem like you become fast friends with both the cast and crew and the fans, but that you want to do creative things together?
I had experienced a little bit of the fan world through another show that I did in Australia called “Neighbors,” but it was nothing like this. It was very popular in Britain and people liked it, but not like this. The world Joss [Whedon] created, I don’t know if you can really compare it to anything. The type of people that are interested in the Whedonverse or the Whedonworld, they’re remarkable people and I’ve enjoyed getting to know a lot of them personally so, so much. Many of them I e-mail with, we have a dialogue. Some of them come to see me when they’re in LA and we spend time together and I show them the sights.
I’m extremely blessed to be part of this world and I like developing relationships with people who I’ve met through this because it’s just added so much to my life. Not only did it give us the opportunity to make our first little film, which I don’t know who else would’ve except for the fans, but we realize how lucky we are to have been brought into this world and people still care about what I’m doing. It’s like you’re part of this family that’s spread across the globe.
It’s interesting you mention showing people the sights of Los Angeles since one of the things that’s great about the film is how you explore Los Angeles with all the outdoor scenes. Is that sense of discovery attributable to the fact you and Anton come from Australia?
Yeah, and that’s what’s wonderful about L.A. is you do keep discovering it all the time. Every day, there’s something new. You hear about another restaurant or another park or another hike that you can do. Having a lot of locations is extremely difficult and for a budget this size, it’s remarkable to have so many locations. We were extremely, extremely lucky to be able to get what we were able to get and it was surprisingly inexpensive, some of them.
I’m really glad that Anton embraced this city because it is a beautiful city and not enough things shoot here and I hope that more people start realizing that shooting in LA is important. I feel a responsibility to shoot here. It’s very pennywise and pound foolish, taking these shows and movies out of the state just to save on getting the tax incentives. It’s an incredible city and there’s just so many beautiful nooks and crannies and quirky places.
I’ll tell you a story. We were shooting in a very dangerous part of L.A. and our [assistant director] was losing his mind. He was like, “We can’t have the actors in this area. It’s extremely dangerous. I won’t do it.” And we didn’t have a choice. When Fran and I got there, a cop car actually drove past and was like, “You guys know where you are?” And we’re like, “Yeah. Got it.” The AD is progressively getting more and more frustrated because he’s responsible for the safety of everybody on set, but I can’t tell you how friendly and kind the people were. They were so hospitable. They were like, “Oh you’re shooting?” and they’d stand on the sidelines and watch. They were like, “Oh do you want us to move the car back?” It was really surprising. Sometimes you can go into a scenario being terrified and then people can completely surprise you in such a wonderful way.
Sounds like it could describe the entire process of making this film.
Yeah, especially since Anton has been working so hard on it. He’s probably seen the movie a thousand times and I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity to see people enjoy it and it’s hard because a movie is no small feat. Most films take seven years from script to screen, if it even gets made, and we’ve been working on it for much longer than the crew now because they were just there for four weeks. You wonder sometimes, is it worth it? Is this really going to add to people’s lives? Anton always thought the film was great, but I would sometimes get lost in it, and for me, it was like I can’t let down those people who believed in us and that’s what kept me going. I can’t speak exactly for Anton, but you’re making sacrifices and fueling this beast that just needs more and more money all the time and you’re like, God, I really hope that it gives at least a few people some happiness because you want films to affect people, especially one that you’ve been working on so hard for so long.